I wasn’t sure there were even enough La Dolce Vita filming locations in Rome that I could write an entire blog post about. “But Rebecca,” I hear you cry. “La Dolce Vita is three hours long, how can there possibly not be enough filming locations?” Well, because director Federico Fellini likes to use sets and a lot of them.
In fact, Fellini had around 80 sets built for La Dolce Vita (1960) at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. But luckily for us, he often blended in the real filming locations with customised sets. Just enough not make this blog post completely redundant.
If you’ve never heard of La Dolce Vita (meaning ‘the sweet life’ or ‘the good life’) before, here’s a brief synopsis. The film follows journalist Marcello over ‘seven major episodes’ as if the film is showcasing a week in his life. Except, it’s quite obvious that more time has passed between the episodes. He goes to parties, meets rich women, spends time with his father and rarely stops to question whether he is happy.
It’s potentially the most quintessential Roman film in the Italian language? Maybe?? Who knows, that’s up for debate. All I know is that it’s a super important Italian film for any film lover to watch. And if you’re planning a trip to Rome for a taste of La Dolce Vita yourself, here are some of the top La Dolce Vita filming locations in the eternal city…
La Dolce Vita Filming Locations in Rome
1. Parco Degli Acquedotti, Via Lemonia, 221, 00174
La Dolce Vita‘s ‘prologue’ documents a helicopter carrying a statue of Jesus over Rome where many residents stop to witness what’s happening. Our protagonist Marcello (played by Marcello Mastroianni) is following the helicopter in his news helicopter.
2. St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza San Pietro, 00120, Vatican City
The statue of Christ then makes its way to St Peter’s Basilica and St Peter’s Square in Vatican City. They at least shot the real St Peter’s Basilica for this scene, probably from the helicopters Fellini was already using in the scene! So far, all the filming locations in La Dolce Vita are authentic!
3. Piazza del Popolo, 00187
In ‘Episode 1’, Marcello meets his friend Maddalena in a swanky nightclub where he is working with his photographer colleague Paparazzo. This character’s name is also the reason why pushy tabloid photographers are called Paparazzi today! The more you know, eh?
Marcello and Maddalena drive off in her Cadillac to a famous piazza in Rome, Piazza del Popolo. There, they meet a prostitute who they offer to drive home and end up having sex in her home.
4. Ciampino International Airport, Via Appia Nuova, 1651, 00040
A lot of the nightclubs and interiors in La Dolce Vita are customised sets. So, unfortunately, none of the locations are available for you to visit. In ‘Episode 2’, Marcello and several other journalists gather at Ciampino International Airport in Rome to greet a famous Swedish-American actress named Sylvia fresh from her flight.
Nowadays, travellers flying from out of the continent will probably land at Fiumicino Airport which is Rome’s main international airport. However, if you’re flying within Europe via one of the budget airlines (you lucky thing!) you may fly into Ciampino.
5. Baths of Caracalla, Viale Delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153
Still in ‘Episode 2’, Marcello and Sylvia are at a party in the Baths of Caracalla which looks like the coolest nightclub ever but it’s one of Rome’s old Roman baths. I’d be very surprised if the majority of this party scene wasn’t a set in Cinecittà Studios, unfortunately. But hey, maybe some of it was filmed in the actual baths?
Earlier in this episode, Marcello and a photographer follow Sylvia up the dome in St Peter’s Basilica and look out onto St Peter’s Square. You can 100% do this in real life, but in this instance, the entire dome was recreated in the studio for the scene.
6. Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Trevi, 00187
During the party, Sylvia’s husband makes an unflattering remark towards her which makes the blonde actress storm out of the party with Marcello accompanying her. They wander the empty streets of Rome in the dead of night until they reach the Trevi Fountain.
This is one of the most famous and recognisable La Dolce Vita filming locations. It’s the scene that graces all the posters and DVD covers, which isn’t surprising. Actress Anita Ekberg claims they filmed the scene in January, the dead of winter, but the BBC claims they shot the scene over one week in March. Either way, Ekberg was a true professional and waded in the freezing cold water for hours. Whereas actor Marcello Mastroianni had to wear a wet suit and be steaming drunk in order to be persuaded to take a dip.
So yes, this La Dolce Vita location is 100% real!! Woohoo!
7. Piazza San Giovanni Bosco, 00175
‘Episode 3’ of La Dolce Vita is all about Marcello’s interactions with the Steiner family. In ‘Episode 3B’, Marcello attends a low key party at his acquaintance’s family apartment. This is probably one of the La Dolce Vita filming locations that are a mash-up of built sets and real locations. The apartment is set in Piazza San Giovanni Bosco, but the interiors are probably studio-built.
8. Via Vittorio Veneto, 00187
Via Veneto is one of the most expensive, high-end shopping streets in Rome and it features in the ‘Episode 5’ section of La Dolce Vita. Marcello’s father comes to visit him in Rome and they enjoy a couple of drinks on the busy street in a bar outside Marcello’s place of work. Would you believe me if I told you that Fellini’s set team built a replica of the Via Veneto, too?? Insanity!
However, I know for a fact there is a plaque on one of the buildings on the actual Via Veneto commemorating its role in La Dolce Vita. So, I think this scene is another example of Fellini mixing sets with on-location filming. I’ve literally never heard of a director who has done this so often in their films.
9. Giustiniani Odescalchi Palace, Piazza Umberto I, 01030, Bassano Romano, Viterbo
We’re nearing the end of La Dolce Vita‘s real-life locations! In ‘Episode 6’, Marcello heads to yet ANOTHER party (honestly, hasn’t this dude ever just thrown on his PJs and snuggled in with a good book?), this time at the swanky Giustiniani Odescalchi Palace. Fellini actually shot the scenes at the exact location where they’re set! The lavishly decorated room where the guests are entertained, the abandoned wing of the castle… it’s all at the palace!
Marcello also bumps into Maddelena again and they have fun playing in a room which has a cool echo chamber. I hope that part of the room is real and it’s not just cinema magic!
10. Moai Beach, Via Carbonia, 177, 00050, Passo Oscuro, Fiumicino
The very last scene in La Dolce Vita which is referred to as the ‘epilogue’ is set on Moai Beach in Passo Oscuro. I believe the location in the film is supposed to be nearby in Fregene, Fiumicino. But it’s literally just a town along the coast anyway so what’s the difference? Marcello is much older now and witnesses a team of strapping young men pull some sort of dead Kraken/super squid onto Passo Oscuro beach. And why people just don’t start freaking out immediately is beyond me!
Apparently, Passo Oscuro beach isn’t doing so well 60 years later. Like a lot of beaches, it’s succumbing to littering and pollution. That’s not a great note to end this list of La Dolce Vita filming locations on, but there you go. Maybe I can pretend the state of the beach is a metaphor for how Marcello has effed up his entire life?
Other La Dolce Vita Filming Locations in Rome
I also discovered some other locations that featured in La Dolce Vita but I’m not 100% sure where. Maybe, if you’re reading this and you know, you could help a girl out?
Firstly, Quirinal Palace (Piazza del Quirinale, 00187) which is relatively close to the Trevi fountain is supposed to be featured somewhere. Maybe Sylvia and Marcello just walked past it on their midnight stroll around Rome? Or Fellini utilised it’s luxe interiors for a scene somewhere?
Also, the Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana (Quadrato Della Concordia, 3, 00144, E.U.R) is apparently in La Dolce Vita. But considering this is the famous Fascist neoclassical building built by Mussolini in WWII, I think I would have recognised it almost instantly should it have appeared on the screen. Maybe just the interiors featured in the film? I also had an idea that because Emma’s hospital scenes looked like they were shot in a minimalist, marble building that this Palazzo was used for some reason?
And finally, I’ve heard that Tivoli in Rome was a filming location for La Dolce Vita. I thought maybe the housing estate/apartment block scenes shot in Tivoli, but it turns out Tivoli is far too pretty-looking. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to do some more research next time I’m in Rome!
And those are some of the top La Dolce Vita filming locations in Rome, Italy! Have you watched La Dolce Vita or visited Rome? Let me know in the comments below!